Is Bud Selig really prepared to act so decisively?

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I’ll end my portion of the day with a Deep Thought of sorts. More of a pondering without a huge point. Just an observation and a musing. That musing: is Bud Selig really prepared to pull the trigger and suspend scores of players, some of them among the biggest names in the game?

This is not a musing borne of sharp skepticism, really. I certainly have my opinions — strong ones — about what Major League Baseball should or shouldn’t do. But I don’t have a strong view on what they will do. There’s just to much unknown right now to determine whether they act or they don’t, whether any suspensions they offer will take or they won’t.  We just don’t know.

But I have been watching Bud Selig for my entire adult life, and one thing that sort of puzzles me right now is how Bud Selig — late period Bud Selig — could act so decisively in an arena where he is bound to get a fight from the union.

If anything has characterized the latter years of Bud Selig’s reign it is his mastery of consensus. You may disagree with some things he has done as Commissioner, but tell me: what was the last thing he actually did where he had to engage in a public fight to do it? Dating back to the 1994-95 strike, I can’t think of one. He is a consensus-builder. He is a planner. He has not had an owners revolt of any kind in years. When someone wants into the club, he gets in. When Bud wants someone out, he’s kicked out. When new initiatives are launched they are launched with unanimous or near-unanimous consent of the owners and the suits in the league office and, increasingly in recent years, the union.  It may be tough going behind the scenes — I imagine Selig has twisted arms and called in favors like nobody’s business over the years — but when something finally gets done, it’s decided and it’s not controversial among the people who could make his life miserable over it (fans don’t always count, naturally).

So I look at the potential for Selig to suspend a zillion players, and the near-certainty that it will lead to a serious, hard core fight from the union, and it doesn’t add up.  Yes, Selig may want to protect his legacy as Major League Baseball’s Commissioner. But Selig’s legacy is not of a drug-free game. Far from it. It’s from operating the gears of the business like a well-oiled machine and never, ever, getting truly thrown into the mud.  Selig is a man who doesn’t like to look feckless or ridiculous. The last time he looked that way was that tied All-Star Game. He made damn sure THAT wasn’t going to happen again. And he did so by getting a silly rule passed about the All-Star Game counting. With very little opposition. That’s how he rolls.

We learned today that the suspensions are not nearly as imminent as ESPN’s report last night made them out to be. There is a timeline — all of June, really — during which baseball is going to assess its evidence and see what it has. And then, maybe, they’ll go after the players.  I can’t help but think that the ESPN report revealed an internal debate among baseball officials about how to act. On the one side some folks who would like to fire a missile at Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez and on the other some of the more Selig-like folk who, to quote a line about the Russians from “The Hunt For Red October” don’t take a dump without a plan.  And given how compromised Anthony Bosch is and how big the fight back from the players would be if suspensions were issued based on his word, suspending 20 or more guys at once is not much of a plan.

Maybe the pro-suspension forces are losing the debate and they got mad and leaked the discussions to ESPN? Maybe baseball really doesn’t know what to do and decided to float this out there to see how it is received? I really have no idea. But I am going to have to have someone explain to me why, after all of these years and after every minefield Bud Selig has successfully navigated, he would choose now to court such potential ugliness and uncertainty.

Bud Selig doesn’t fire before he aims. He fires after the condemned prisoner is standing six inches from him, bound at the wrists and well-aware of how sealed his fate truly is. We don’t have that situation with the Biogenesis stuff right now. And the fact that Selig may be willing to fire anyway is fascinating to me.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

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UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.